SHOCKING TOLL OF PINGDEMIC IS LAID BARE
Empty shelves across UK ++ PM stuck in quarantine ++ Bosses demand more staff spared isolation ++ When WILL No10 act?
supermarket shelves were left empty yesterday as the ‘pingdemic’ halted food deliveries.
Shoppers around the country were unable to buy meat, vegetables and other fresh produce. Branches of Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Morrisons, Lidl and other chains were all hit.
As many as 1.7million workers are thought to be in quarantine, either through being pinged by the NHS Covid app or contacted by test and trace officials. The Prime Minister, Chancellor and Health Secretary are all also in selfisolation and yesterday Labour’s Sir Keir Starmer joined them after one of his children contracted Covid.
Bosses say the sheer number of staff being ‘pinged’ by the NHS Covid app is putting their businesses at risk. They want key employees to be able to escape quarantine if they are double jabbed and test negative for the virus.
But Boris Johnson yesterday insisted this will not happen until August 16.
Food deliveries have been disrupted
by a lack of drivers, exacerbated by shortages linked to Brexit. Stores also do not have enough employees to restock items that sell well in hot weather.
‘We are already seeing a serious impact on retail operations as a result of staff having to self-isolate and this will only get worse,’ said Helen Dickinson of the British Retail Consortium. She called for an end to ‘needless quarantine’ for shop workers.
In scenes reminiscent of the start of the pandemic, salad and fruit and veg aisles, along with others for fish, pizzas, bottled water and ice creams, have been left bare in shops from Southampton to Edinburgh. In other developments:
The UK recorded another 44,104 Covid cases and 73 deaths;
Figures showed it will take until October
‘Keep life moving this summer’
to jab all under-30s at current rates;
Labour signalled it could join Tory rebels in voting against the Prime Minister’s plan for mandatory vaccine passports;
A report showed that Covid had killed 39,000 care home residents.
Health Secretary Sajid Javid faced mounting pressure to perform a U-turn over France being excluded from new quarantine-free travel rules for the double-jabbed;
The Government will use a new slogan urging the public to ‘keep life moving’ this summer.
Business leaders are furious that even workers who have been double-jabbed and tested negative for the virus must self-isolate.
They are arguing for a system to allow staff involved in food supply who are pinged to continue at work based on taking daily tests to show they are negative. But, taking part in Prime Minister’s Questions by video link from Chequers, Boris Johnson yesterday insisted he will not bring forward changes due to come in on August 16 that will mean doublejabbed people will no longer have to Ministers isolate if have they are said pinged. only a ‘small number’ of employees working in the supply of food, electricity and medicines, and transport, defence and borders will be able to avoid the isolation rules. Iceland has reduced trading hours because around 1,000 staff have been ordered to self-isolate.
The supermarket chain’s boss Richard Walker said last night: ‘A number of stores have had to close and the concern is that as this thing rises exponentially, it could get a lot worse.
‘We urgently need an overhaul of the rules around the test and trace app, ideally switching to a test and release model.’
Marks & Spencer has warned it may be necessary to reduce trading hours in some outlets.
Nick Allen of the British Meat Processors’ Association said: ‘It’s getting a bit out of control. There’s an air of despondency creeping through the industry.
‘Until now we’ve managed to keep the food supply chain running but there’s a sense of we’re starting to fail on that front.’
Ian Wright of the Food and Drink Federation said: ‘Food production has been hit hard by isolations.’
Pret a Manger yesterday revealed it has had to close 17 branches.